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Psittacosaur tail structures
This is the first I've heard of these structures on the tail of
Psittacosaurs. How did I miss this? Oh well, sounds very interesting and
Anyway, it fits in very nicely with my hypothesis that protofeathers
began on the tails of dinosaurs and then spread forward on the body in their
descendants and later became exapted for thermoregulation (incl. brooding).
I think aerodynamic feathers came even later (even wing feathers would have
been initially thermoregulatory, as favored by Tom Hopps and others).
The purpose of this integument on just the tail would presumably be
predator evasion (diverting attention to a relatively expendable end of the
tail). If this stage occurred in early dinosauromorphs, it would perhaps
make balancing problems (brought up by Jaime Headdin) from loss of part of
the tail even less of a problem for my hypothesis. Such a predator evasion
strategy would have worked especially well in forms that had long slender
tail tips (wiggly, but with little mass).
P.S. Psittacosaurs could represent the brooding thermoregulatory stage if
they had this integement on the posterior abdomen.
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